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The Florida Recount: Though Second Count is Almost Complete, Election is Far From Over

Aired November 9, 2000 - 4:41 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: No doubt both campaigns watching this recount very closely as the number of counties dwindles down that need to be recounted and the number -- that is, the Bush lead shrinks to 341. Let's talk with our correspondents covering both campaigns.

Candy Crowley is Austin, Texas; John King is in Nashville with the Gore campaign.

We'll start there -- but is Al Gore still in Nashville, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is, indeed, Natalie. The vice president still here for several more hours. He will return to Washington tonight, and when he does his political and legal teams will relocate with him. The Gore operation now will be based in Washington starting this evening.

The vice president took a jog earlier today. He would not comment on any of this, but he did take a brief run in Nashville to unwind. As you've been seeing on the air these past several hours, this, a political and a legal fight that has been turning increasingly bitter. The vice president saying nothing, but his team growing more aggressive -- one pressing ahead with the legal challenge in Florida. They do not expect the results to favor the vice president when this retallying is done today, so they have demanded a recount by hand in four Florida counties.

They're also considering their legal options in Palm Beach County, which we just heard John Zarrella talking about. They believe, if Palm Beach County is revisited, either with a revote or the statistical analysis approach that John Zarrella was talking about, that they would be declared the winner there and that they would get more than enough votes to swing Florida in the vice president's favor.

On the political front, what we're hearing moire and more from the Gore people is that they're growing downright annoyed, they say, with what they see going on in Austin. They say right now the vice president leads in the national popular vote, the vice president lead in the electoral college count, but as this recount in Florida goes on, you hear word out of Austin about transition meetings, naming a cabinet, preparing to take over the government. The Gore campaign complaining, not only is that unfair to the vice president, because the election has not been settled; they believe, and this is chairman campaign William Daley we'll hear from right here, they believe it's a disservice to the American people.


WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: I believe that their actions to try to presumptively crown themselves the victors, to try to put in place a transition run the risk of dividing the American people and creating a sense of confusion.


KING: Now, what they believe here in the Gore campaign is that this is a deliberate political strategy to try to convince the American people that this election is over, that the vice president is being a sore loser and to try to create a public-opinion groundswell to end all this -- to get the lawyers out of it, to declare Bush the winner and get along with the transition.

What the Gore camp says is that it will not stand for that. That it will be more aggressive in the legal fight, more aggressive in the public relations fight, and we've seen that today with Mr. Daley and others coming out. They are heading back to Washington tonight, assuming that this could take several weeks, perhaps even a little longer and they're saying the American people should not be at all worried about that, that this is the way it works, that we have elections in November and inaugurations in January so that if there are any troubles, any discrepancies, any issues to be raised, there's plenty of time to deal with them -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Well, John, individuals, apparently are bringing lawsuits regarding the Palm Beach County mess. Is the Gore campaign poised to do the same thing?

KING: The Gore campaign is considering whether to file a lawsuit of its own or whether to support individuals in Palm Beach County who go into court. Also, the question is whether you go into state court or into federal court. Florida, according to the Gore lawyers, anyway, is one of the more liberal. To use that term states in terms of how you challenge results. They believe if this were many other states, their options would be limited. There a growing sense of optimism -- cautious optimism as they study Florida law, that they do have some recourses here.

And let me tell you, some people in the Bush campaign are concerned about this. I spoke to a senior legal adviser to the Governor Bush earlier today, this is a Republican lawyer with considerable experienced in election law in disputes like this. Obviously, at the presidential level we've never had anything like this. This attorney said that they believe the law is on their side. As we've been discussing all day, no one thinks this was a great presidential ballot in Palm Beach County, but the Republicans are saying that proper procedure was followed, it was put out in public before the election, there was a public comment period. If anyone objected, they should have objected then.

But this lawyer also said, and I'm quoting him now, quote, "If they revisit Palm Beach County, then Gore will probably win the election" -- Natalie.

ALLEN: John King in Nashville; thanks, John.

Now over to Lou.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Candy Crowley is with the Bush campaign in Austin, Texas. We're hearing words about the Bush people, like annoyed, arrogant. We just heard Karen Hughes, just a little while ago, say "these comments coming from the East sound shrill." So we've got a war of words going, here, between the campaigns.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, this isn't just a matter of numbers and a recount in Florida. This is a fierce political battle. The flipside of this coin, from the Bush campaign's point of view, is that, while they're trying to -- yes, they are talking about transition.

They point out that there was transition talk out of the Gore team prior to the election, as there was out of the Bush team; that this isn't something that is occupying the bulk of the governor's day today. He is, in fact, doing some state business. But that, yes, they are looking ahead as to how a transition would take place and who would head it and that sort of thing.

Beyond that, they feel that the Gore camp is politicizing this whole mess. That they are the ones responsible for it. They point out that, in a number of places in the whole Palm Beach County community, that only some of the facts are getting out. They noted today in a news conference, Karl Rove, their chief political strategist said, look there was a 110-percent increase in Palm Beach County since 1996 in voters who registered as independents or Reform Party members or American Reform Party Members which could, in part, account for Pat Buchanan's showing there.

They point out that, at least in perspective, that four years ago in the presidential campaign, there were an even amount of ballots that were thrown out for double counting, one that is in proportion to the ones that have been thrown out in Palm Beach County. So they say that there are a lot of explanations going on there.

Don Evans, who is the campaign manager for George Bush, also said in that news conference that it appears that the vice president was not happy with the results of the election and that they will not be happy with the recount. So they feel that the Gore campaign is fomenting these kind of questions about various ballots in Florida. Again, the Bush team passed out a copy of the now famous ballot in Palm Beach County -- saying, listen, there are arrows that point to the hole that you punch out for each of the candidates. It's quite clear.

Karl Rove also showed part of the ballot that comes from Chicago; that, of course, the home base of Bill Daley, Gore's campaign manager, and said it's the exact same kind of vote in Chicago. Now, that wasn't so on the presidential level, but it was so for many of the down-ballot races in Chicago. So, they too are trying to fight back for what they feel is a concerted Gore campaign to try to sow uncertainty all over the place, not just about the vote count, but other places. So they are getting tougher out here as well in their responses.

WATERS: All that having been said by both sides about the vote in Palm Beach County, is the Bush campaign nervous, though, about what we're hearing from U.S. Congressman Peter Deutsch, that a state court judge in Florida must review the ballots in Palm Beach County and review the discrepancies; and if he finds them, if he can be convinced there are discrepancies, to order some kind of adjustment. That would cause, I would think, some tensions to rise in Austin, Texas?

CROWLEY: I'm not sure tensions could get much higher. I can tell you that publicly they are saying, we remain confident that the recount will put Florida in the Bush column and, therefore, the presidency in his column.

They have people all over Florida; it's headed -- the team -- by James Baker who, of course, served in both the Reagan and the Bush administrations prior to this. He is down there as the point man; but they have a lawyer in each county watching over this and assuredly watching the court maneuverings as this goes on.

WATERS: Are we going to hear from Governor Bush today after these final numbers are reported by the state of Florida in the recount?

CROWLEY: That's what they call in the news business "TBA," To Be Announced. They haven't made up their mind, but we asked them directly, that question, whether we'd see them and they said, you know, it depends on what happens; we don't know.

WATERS: I just thought you might have found out something for us Candy.

CROWLEY: I think they're waiting to see what happens, Lou.

WATERS: OK, we'll stand by; we'll be back to you -- Candy Crowley in Austin, Texas -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Well, you saw the emotions going on in Palm Beach County, Florida, among some voters. In a moment we'll check in with some voters the other part of the country.

CNN's Greg LaMotte is at Los Angeles International Airport and we'll hear what some other voters think about this election 2000 in a moment.



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